Different forecast models predict Joaquin will either veer northwestward, ramming into Virginia, Maryland or North Carolina this weekend, or avoid the East Coast entirely as it takes a more easterly track up the Atlantic. Overnight, the American model trended towards the European model in predicting that the storm would not make landfall in the U.S.
Regardless of Joaquin's path, the Carolinas and Virginia appeared in line to be soaked by a separate storm pulling tropical air into the region. Between 10 and 15 inches of rain has been forecast over a 72-hour period from Friday through Sunday — with as much as 20 inches in some places. Parts of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey are also expected to be drenched this weekend.
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Heavy rain was already falling late Wednesday, and at least one person died in flash floods in Spartanburg, officials said.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday declared a state of emergency, and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory ordered state agencies to prepare for floods.
"I cannot stress enough the imperative for Virginians to focus on the rainstorms that are headed our way [Thursday] and Friday, well before Hurricane Joaquin could potentially impact Virginia," McAuliffe said. "The forecast of up to 10 inches of rain in areas across Virginia could result in floods, power outages and a serious threat to life and property."
In Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, officials were hoping sandbags protect the town if the hurricane strikes the Outer Banks. "It could be some resemblance of what Sandy offered us, and we've learned some lessons from that," Kitty Hawk Mayor Gary Perry told NBC station WAVY.